In a tropical island, every one sleeps under a coconut tree assigned to him. He wakes up only when a coconut falls on his head once in a while; you do not have to think when you have to wake up and eat. He eats the coconut and goes back to sleep. He is lazy due to the nice weather (no need to find shelter) and the nice resource (the coconut tree). He is happy and rich by his own standard. However, he is lazy, fat, and stupid due to the lack of any need to work, exercise, and think out of his ‘perfect’ environment.
The worst that happens to the natives is borrowing coconuts from other natives with the coconut tree as collateral or cut down the coconut true to make a canoe without plans on how to replenish coconuts in the future.
This is a simple theory. It can be used to explain how and why many countries are rich, poor, and continue to be so. Let’s check how this theory stacks up with countries.
The U.S. is the richest country due to its developed and highly educated citizens, hard-working immigrants and the huge natural resources per capita (i.e. having a lot of coconuts in my theory). The U.S. is declining as we spend more time enjoying our wealth (borrowing coconuts so he can eat more; on credit – living beyond our means!) rather than creating more wealth (i.e. eating up most of the coconuts and not planting new coconut trees in my theory).
The wealth is equivalent to the bountiful of coconut trees that were available originally and the many that were planted by our ancestors. There were fewer natives to consume the total number of coconuts, so there was a surplus of coconuts grown, eventually to be given away (as welfare and entitlements).
Because of WW2, most coconut trees in the world were destroyed while ours were fine. We were rich to ship our better coconuts to the rest of the world.
God gave us natural resource, good soil and climatic wealth (coconuts hidden under the land) and hopefully we continue to be wealthy. Unfortunately, we’re now consumers (of coconuts) instead of producers (planting new coconut trees).
Norway is the richest to its population group (3 millions) while Brunei is richest in its own category. Norway has more money than God because of its long coastal line and its intelligently governed oil wealth, so everything works better there. I hate to compare any country to Norway as most likely we are comparing Apples to Melons.
From its long coast line Norway has rich off-shore oil fields and abundant fish exports which is second in the world-- only 6% of its export, after China but far, far #1 per capita wise. Because of the world's oil addition and food dependence secures its income flow.
Peru has a long coast line, but it is not wealthy. My theory does not apply fully here, as there are always exceptions. It could be Norway’s educated citizens, close location to its trade partners and buying assets around the world (planting more coconut trees). The dividend payments allow Norway to prosper for decades. They have about 600 billion sovereign fund to be shared by 3 million citizens. Simple math!
Some smart guys suggested cutting down all the coconut trees to make canoes so they can earn a rich life by fishing. The world loans them with coconuts. When the fishing fails, their land is lost with no coconuts and no coconut trees left. Do not bet all the coconuts in one venture.
Singapore and SE Asia
Singapore is rich due to its important location for the sea route for trade and commerce, as well as being the cultural intersection between the east and the west and its industrious citizens (most are Chinese). When the hard-working folks land on a land of coconuts (i.e. resources), they naturally become rich.
Mekong River is a good resource providing fishing, irrigation, transportation, and fertile land in the delta for SE Asia. Hence, SE Asia should be rich, and at the same time attract hard-working immigrants from India and China to enhance their wealth.
Japan has few natural resources. Its only resource is the educated and hard-working citizens. With a decreasing population and the policy not welcoming immigrants, Japan will face problems.
Haiti used to have enough coconuts for its small population. French imported African slaves to the sugar cane plantation and changed the allocation of natural resources per capita. Coupled with frequent natural disasters and bad governance, Haiti becomes the poorest country in the world. Corruption in poor countries is natural.
When the west helped UAE to explore its oil resources (the hidden coconuts under the sand) about 50 years ago, UAE becomes the richest country on earth. She expands in different areas and it could be over-expanded. When the oil dries up in 100 or so years and/or the shale energy competes better, they could be in big trouble.
Russia is a country full of resources (coconuts). Its citizens become lazy having a good time under the ‘coconut’ tree. Chinese are just the opposite. That’s why the Russians hire the hard-working Chinese to tender farm in the border while they enjoy life with plenty of Vodka J.
The primary reason why USSR fell was the temporary low prices of their resources oil and timber (coconuts). Trying to be #1 was another reason.
China has roughly 20% of the world population, but it has far less than 20% of the world resources (coconuts). For example, it has only 6% of the world land area. The situation was worsened in the last 250 years during the Opium Wars, and then semi colonization by the eight countries (helping the opium pushers). It bankrupted China by their colonial masters. It caused massive migration to escape from the land without coconuts. It was followed by WW2, war lord era and then the bad governance. Their bitter lessons ensure this generation and the next generation to work hard and be smart. When we do not have ‘coconuts’, we die.
China ranks #2 in the economy. It is only important to its trading partners. Its own citizens care about their living standard which is about the middle in the rank of all countries.
Ancient civilizations too
Greece, Iran, India, China and Italy are among the oldest civilizations. Most do not do well in today’s economy and many of their citizens have immigrated to other countries. My theory suggests that they have exhausted their coconuts (farm land and metals) throughout the long history. Hence, they have to migrate to lands with more coconuts.
To illustrate, there is a huge discrepancy in natural resources (oil, metal and farm land) between China and the U.S., which has a relatively short history.
Microsoft was a tougher company with more innovations fifteen years ago. However, they are enjoying easy profitability of upgrades of Windows and Office (coconuts planted by their ancestors). For a long time, she only has one successful new product, the Xbox. Her managers are counting their bonuses instead of taking risk. The Coconut Theory works again.
Rich families too
It is very rare to have rich families that last over three generations. The first generation grows the wealth (planting coconuts), the second generation enjoys the wealth, and the third or fourth generation usually becomes poor due to the easy life.
So far, no one tells me that this theory has been ‘discovered’ by others. Shamelessly I claim it is mine. To me, it is just common sense.
My e-book Debunk the Myths of Investing could save you a lot of money in investing. The above is one chapter out of 133 and some important chapters will not be included in the blog. Check out my books from amazon.com under the name Tony Pow.
Sample portfolio for the book.
(c) 2013 Tony Pow
Disclaimer. I'm not responsible for your actions in your investment. Treat this as educational information and past performance does not guarantee future performance.